RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir in a meeting with members of the Christian community at the General Headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi stressed the significance of promoting interfaith harmony in the society, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Monday.
A 14-member Christian community delegation, led by Dr Azad Marshall — Moderator and President Bishops (Church of Pakistan and Bishop of Raiwind) — called on General Munir, the army's media wing said.
During the meeting matters of mutual interest, religious and inter-faith harmony were discussed as the COAS lauded the contributions of the Christian community in national development, including the promotion of quality education, healthcare and philanthropic services and the outstanding role played by them for the defence of the motherland.
Gen Munir expressed deep respect for the Christian community and stressed the need to promote greater interfaith harmony in the society to follow Quaid's true vision of a united and progressive Pakistan, the ISPR added.
“Islam is a religion of peace and there is no space for intolerance and extremism in Islam and society. No one can be allowed to take law into his own hands in a civilised society,” the army chief said.
Meanwhile, the Christian community members acknowledged the Pakistan Army's efforts in combatting terrorism and providing a secure environment for the minorities in the country.
The delegation lauded the army chief’s gesture as an inspiration for the Pakistani minorities to take a greater and more active part in nation-building and in restoring their faith in a cohesive and tolerant society.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of the "Jaranwala incident" where a mob vandalised several churches and set scores of houses on fire after a few miscreants made announcements in mosques inciting the mob to attack under allegations of blasphemy in Jaranwala town, Faisalabad.
The incident which took place on August 16 sparked outrage on social media and among political and religious figures in the country, who condemned the incident, saying that there was no room for such extreme behaviour.
Condemning the incident as “extremely tragic and totally intolerable”, COAS Gen Munir stressed that “there is no space for such incidents of intolerance and extreme behaviour”.
“The Jaranwala incident is extremely tragic and totally intolerable. There is no space for such incidents of intolerance and extreme behaviour by any segment of the society against anyone, particularly against minorities,” the army chief was quoted by the ISPR as saying last month.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar had also censured the incident and assured of strict action against the perpetrators. The premier had distributed cheques of Rs2 million each among the members of the Christian community whose houses were destroyed due to mob violence.
Separately, Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa had also visited Jaranwala to "express solidarity" with the Christian community.
In a bid to probe the tragic incident in Faisalabad's Jaranwala, foster interfaith and interdenominational unity, and quell extremist narratives, the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) and Church of Pakistan jointly established a 24-member committee on August 20.
Authorities had registered two cases under charges of terrorism and blasphemy including 13 other provisions, against the arsonists in Jaranwala, in which 37 suspects were nominated and more than 600 unidentified people were included in the investigation.
Addressing the possibility of "external involvement" in the incident, Punjab Inspector General Police (IGP) Dr Usman Anwar had revealed that "hostile agencies" were linked to the Jaranwala incident which involved violent attacks.
A three-member SC bench comprising Justice Ijaz-Ul-Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail is hearing the case after minority leader Samuel Pyaray moved the SC under a miscellaneous petition, to take notice of the Jaranwala tragedy.